Herman Edwards famously said “You play to win the game.” Republicans have been losing. November was not a mandate for Obama, he won less votes than he did in 2008. It was a call to action for Republicans to get serious about building a party. One rooted in core conservative values, but strategic and practical enough to win. Thanks largely to the Tea Party, the GOP is turning into the Green Party: leadership on the fringes who see balance as compromise and compromise as poison – a party that would rather fail than change.
This hasn’t proved a winning strategy; in fact, it’s not a strategy at all.
The only correlative factor anyone needs to look at is population density. As Dave Troy details, 98 percent of the 50 densest counties voted for Obama. 98 percent of the 50 least dense counties voted for Romney. A winning strategy captures cities through a balanced approach optimized for the long-term and designed to win the game the GOP is playing – not the game they want to, wish, or are pretending to play. Tactically that means bolstering itself as the party of business and fiscal responsibility, and diversifying the party’s voter base.
The Party of Business:
This shouldn’t be a question, but too often Republicans seem to be assuming and in turn ignoring this core group of support. The election apparently didn’t raise a red flag. Today, GOP leaders and far-right talk show hosts are calling for the party to “walk away” from discussions to work our way off the fiscal cliff, even while falling off threatens to further slowdown the economy and bring more challenges to businesses. Likewise, while a position of no new taxes sounds great, that’s not a long-term plan that honestly and realistically addresses today’s challenges. Businesses understand tradeoffs, long-term planning, and most importantly the impact of broad economic growth, fiscal prudence and stewardship. These are the themes of conversations that Republican leadership should be having with large and small business owners across our nation.
Cities are a crucial stage for that conversation. Cities are full of potential Republicans! They’re the home of most of our biggest businesses, where individuals work longer hours and where wealth is generated. Productivity, creation of wealth through work, private entrepreneurship, enterprise and freedom – these are Republican values. Or at least they are the stated ones. Today they seem more like faded tag lines.
The party has drifted. There’s no sense of regular and transparent conversation between GOP leaders and businesses. The very rich have flocked to Obama. But even if their ship wealth has drifted to a place many consider out of touch with the average American, those Republican values of hard work, creation of wealth, and private responsibilities and freedom, have always been the drivers – not entitlements, unions, and a view of corporations as amorphous organization against the common man.
It’s time to clearly frame GOP positions within these values and re-start those motors. For fuel we’ll need honest and public conversations about where we are now as a nation, the true trade-offs facing us, and short- vs. long-term implications of actions. Businesses understand these things. They rely on straightforward discussions to make crucial decisions every day, as does every individual.
A Diversified Voter Base:
Anyone who has moved from a small town into a city knows that two things happen: one, you meet lots of people very different than those in the town you came from and, two, you begin to understand those people. The GOP needs to move into a city. The party’s stereotypes are those of old white male businessmen or gun toting, cameo-wearing hicks. There’s no problem with these folks, half of my family are the former and half are the latter – but they’re not enough to win. Worse, that base is shrinking.
Today’s Republicans will be comfortable with these new party members after they’ve figured out what really matters – that the heart of party are those values of hard work and individual freedom. One day gays will get married (or “married” by whatever proxy is eventually decided upon) and abortion will never again be illegal – get over it and focus. If that is upsetting on moral grounds, then minister to these individuals in church, not in Congress. The GOP’s distractions can’t afford any more distractions.
A Focused, Long-Term Approach:
Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor was the GOP. A balanced and long-term approach will take time – years that will establish the type of foundation on which the party will rebuild. But the party needs to decide whether it’s ready to play to win the game. To map out the rules, players, and options–whether they like them or not–and then step onto the field.
American households balance their budgets regularly, some daily. Most–even those receiving some sort of government assistance–go to some sort of job each day. These two facts mean that every day these individuals are thinking in line with those Republican values. They’re thinking like Republicans. It’s time to reach out to them where they are, focus on our core values and drop the distractions. It’s time to build and execute a new GOP strategy that will communicate, reach, and convert our new voters in American cities.